The old maxim is true: a business’ most valuable resource is its people. And as the nation’s premier professional employer organization (PEO), Insperity has unique insight into what makes a winning people strategy, since not only have we built one for our own company, we’ve also helped countless small and medium-sized businesses do the same. The following questions will help you assess whether your company is on the right track.
1. What is the culture like?
The culture is the single most important component of a people strategy. It sets the tone for the workplace and guides how your people treat clients and colleagues. Think of culture like the oil in an engine. It’s not a mechanical component per se, but it does keep the engine running smoothly.
Culture can be created by design or by default—you can custom-build it, or you can let it grow organically over time. Both methods have their pros and cons, but make your choice carefully. Once a culture has developed and people have internalized its values, it can be hard to start anew.
2. How do you recognize people for great work?
In addition to salaries and bonuses, a good HR strategy routinely celebrates people for a job well done. Recognizing individual contributions can take the form of small, ordinary gestures (a simple, face-to-face compliment from a supervisor) as well as big ceremonies full of pomp and circumstance (“Employee of the Year” awards at company-wide gatherings).
Showing appreciation for people’s talent and hard work is a tremendous morale booster and a powerful way of reinforcing the culture and linking individual achievement with company-wide goals. Such actions are a low-cost investment that pays great dividends. They are an essential part of any good HR strategy.
3. Is your leadership style helping or hurting?
Every executive must choose a leadership style, whether it be a crack-the-whip authoritarian approach, or carrot-or-stick transactional leadership, or a mixed bag of different styles. Are you able to rally your people to work toward a common aim—or are you just browbeating them into doing the bare minimum? Your brand of leadership influences the output you receive.
As the twenty-year CEO of Insperity, I’ve always practiced servant leadership, a more humble, harmonious, we’re-all-in-this-together philosophy that relies on the gentle display of authority (not the wanton exercise of power) and inspires people to work hard instead of coercing them.
One benchmark for the effectiveness of your chosen style is “discretionary effort”—work that people put in not because they have to, but because they want to. The kind of “above and beyond” effort that separates good companies from mediocre ones.
4. What are you doing to recruit and retain the best employees?
Obviously, your people strategy will falter if you can’t attract and keep top talent. Paying competitive salaries is of course helpful. But you can also lure people by touting your great benefits, positive, friendly culture, excellent reputation, and other intangibles. Recruiting is also a matter of culture. Don’t merely seek candidates with the best CV; look for people who will fit in your organization.
Simple practices, like being diligent about background checks (which ideally should be handled by a professional screening company), maintaining an up-to-date employee handbook, and providing clear job descriptions of each position, are frequently overlooked but always essential. Skipping (or skimping on) these things often proves to be a costly and legally perilous mistake.